Before we get going, I want to point out as the author of this story something I have already included in the story itself.
You have already read it as part of the story.
But I am aware of a problem related to this thing that I am about to point out.
Most of the people who have read the story have missed something.
And that something is crucial to the whole tale.
Most of the people who have read Adrianna haven’t understood that its spinal cord is that it is a travel blog that goes off the tracks somewhere mid-trip.
Actually it goes off the tracks in this chapter which you are about to read, but I feign that the central character doesn’t know that fact for several chapters yet to come – or, more realistically, that he doesn’t want to think about it.
Keep that in mind.
That spinal cord underpins every chapter and every incident.
And there is one more thing.
The journal – which exists not in fact but does exist in my heart – is the glue holding the whole story together.
Part One: Egress
I got up at a quarter to four on the 30th of September. The taxi showed up a couple of minutes before five and I was at the airport by half past the hour or a little earlier. I checked two bags and didn’t have to pay because I had made Business Class reservations. That meant that I flew First Class to Dulles and Business Class to Paris.
First Class on the domestic leg got me into the First Class security line. That’s a short line that lets one think that one is beating the system. It allows one to stand in a feeder line less long so one can stand in the real line with all the other, non First Class travelers for however long it takes.
It’s sort of a go to the head of the line so you can be first to get to the back of the line.
I still had to take off my shoes.
The young woman with infant behind me was somewhat upset with me as I began to fill every security container that she reached for.
I had a lot of stuff.
I had my ThinkPad supercomputer; I had my giant wool lined raincoat; I had my Hartmann satchel half full of books and half full of a plastic food container filled with toilet items and pills (I had no idea what terrorist functions pills might have but I could not imagine not having to explain them); I had my computer-and-electronics back pack, which once relieved of its ThinkPad was still brim full of cameras and nefarious looking electronic accoutrements (I was sure that I would need to explain the function of each of them prior to being allowed to graduate from security); and I had my navy blue blazer and wide leather belt which has a big buckle made of a beautiful slab of black walnut, and having, therefore, no electronic characteristics, but it is big and security always makes one take off big belt buckles.
Each of these items required a container. Each time I filled one of the containers the young mother would reach for another one (lest it sound as if I was being unfair, I was in front of her in the line) and would try to move ahead of me. I had no idea where she thought she was going to go ahead of me; my items stretched ahead as far as the eye could see; she would have had to go to the terminal end of my stuff to elude me and my stuff. But she really wanted to so elude and she kept – unsuccessfully – reaching for the next container and muttering, in some language unknown to me, what I assumed were curses upon me and all others of my ilk each time I took next container.
I had put my brain in neutral somewhere between the First Class security line and the place where I had taken off my shoes. When I had finally ceased being the bane of the young mother by having used every container that my vast array of carry-on could fill, I went into an additional sub-dimension of consciousness. I was preparing for what I knew would be a harrowing series of examinations of all my stuff. All I wanted was to get to the Red Carpet Lounge and I was ready to submit to whatever level and form of self deprecation that would be required to get through that expected examination. Everything but that concentration – that single minded unwillingness to consider anything but inducing an appropriate mindset for groveling - was gone from me. I knew nothing but that I possessed all kinds of things that were imminently going to be prodded, poked, unpacked, x-rayed and examined. I knew that I was going to have to explain all those things and that if my explanations won favor with security I was going to have to laboriously re-pack them all. If I had had any mind space left for anything else I would probably have envied the young woman who had only one item, that item which I had prevented her time after time getting into a container.
As it was, I had forgotten all about her.
So it was a dual surprise when at the exit end of the scanning machine my stuff all came out just as I had placed it with no questions, no agents brandishing one or more of my items for deeper scrutiny and no requests to go to another location for more extensive examination.
I gathered everything up and left.
But the young woman with child was detained by security. She had a whole bag full of unknown and unknowable creams, fluids, ointments and liquids.
Security was going to get to the bottom of that.
Part Two: On the Plane
As I went through the turnstile and handed my boarding pass to the gate attendant he said “we’ve changed your seat”. He handed me a different stub from a different boarding pass. It turned out to be a window seat in first class. I had never flown First Class on an international flight. I was pretty excited.
First Class had an immediate and noticeable advantage over Business Class. The minute I sat down an attendant asked me if I would like a glass of champagne. I asked what had taken so long. He laughed. I wondered how many times he had heard that one. I was just trying to fit in.
Having said “yes” it was only moments before I was sipping my glass of champagne. And it was a glass not a plastic cup.
Between sips I set about figuring out what all I could, should and would need to do with the device in which I was sitting. Calling it a seat was to vastly devalue the massive piece of technology in which I was engulfed. Learning all the seat positions, sound and video settings and lumbar support components and magic fingers like capabilities kept me occupied until we had taken off and I had ordered a scotch and ice.
I continued my research of my on board environment as I began to consume my scotch. It was Johnnie Walker Black Label. For some reason I prefer the cheaper Red Label. But then, I was trying to fit in. About halfway through the Black Label I discovered that in first class I had Wi-Fi.
That, in a manner similar to the immediately served champagne promised to be a new experience. I had never had the use of Wi-Fi on a plane before. I wasn’t at all sure that having it would be much of an advantage or a desirable travel feature, but I was surely going to try it.
So I did.
I got out the ThinkPad.
I had a couple of emails from Williams Sonoma which I deleted without reading.
I Googled “Maastricht Treaty” for no apparent reason.
I looked at my checking account balance.
Then I had to face the fact that being able to do the same mundane and boring things on an airplane that I do at home is not a value add.
So I decided to take a nap.
I have a state of being that is not awake and it is not asleep. It is in a precarious between-them state. It is a state of imminent sleep, but it isn’t sleep. And it is populated by wild perceptions and visions. These are as different from dreams as a porcupine from a hedgehog.
Sometimes I, if I am brought fully awake from this state, rather than continuing on to full sleep – the state where dreams prevail – I can remember shreds of those perceptions and visions.
So it was on this occasion.
I had been hearing someone singing the beginning of a song. It was a song that I knew with much more than an average amount of intimacy. That was because it was a song that – in a long distant part of my life – I had written. But the fact that I had written it was not even close to the whole story. That song had been my de facto post mortem of a relationship that had ended. The relationship had been important. I hadn’t known how important. After it had ended I had discovered just how exquisitely important that relationship had been. The fact that I had - not with malice, not with active conscious intent - but with, nonetheless, extreme, if inadvertent, effectiveness done everything in my power to cause that termination had added an almost unbearable layer of sadness to the post termination realization of that importance.
I spent days and weeks lapsed in deep moroseness.
The catharsis came with the words of a poem that occurred to me. The exorcism came with the music that I retrofitted to that poem. The synthesis of those two events became two copies of a forty five RPM disc that I recorded. I kept one; I sent the other to the reason for writing the song.
And that was it.
I occasionally played the disk until it became almost unplayable. I kept it somewhere in my archives of things important but things that don’t need to be found anymore. After not seeing it for years, I saw it just before departing on this trip. I had been looking in those archives, for reasons I could not explain, for something that I thought that I remembered having written once. I had an intense desire to find that thing, a thing that I was sure I had never disposed of.
So, having recently seen the ancient disc, perhaps some memory of the lyrics of that disc had populated itself into the near sleep shred of memory that I had just experienced on the plane.
I’ll build me a castle
Way up to the sky
I’ll find me a rainbow
Find it bye and bye
These things that I wanted
I set out to find
But I never knew it
When they were mine
My Black Label had been reduced to a not very large residue of very scotchless melted ice.
So I asked for another. We were still in the middle of the Atlantic a long way from Ireland.
I took a sip. And I took another. With the second came an inspiration. I took another sip. That was to celebrate the deliciously irrational flavor of the inspiration.
I went back to the keyboard and did a Google for “Rainbows and Castles”. I was just having fun. The scotch was making almost anything seem to be fun. I was, however, still conscious and rational – as rational as I ever am – so I was just having fun within the parameters that Black Label and Wi-Fi would allow. I wasn’t expecting a hit.
I took another sip as I looked out the window at the dark area where the Atlantic must be. I glanced at the screen imbedded into my automated airline habitat and saw that we were at 38,000 feet, a thousand miles from Limerick and travelling at 535 miles per hour. I leaned back with a sigh. The mechanical airline habitat was beginning to feel like a sort of personal exoskeleton. I almost dropped back off to sleep.
But, as I was in the process of closing my eyes, I saw a single-line result from the Google.
“Rainbows and Castles”:
I had never seen a single Google result before. “I guess” I gurgled through another sip “that there is a coincidentally named work of some kind – music, poetry or prose – that someone has posted.”
I clicked on the link.
I was not prepared for what came next.
There was a guy sitting at the foot of some kind of giant tree, between two of its roots. The roots were so large they thrust their backbones a foot or more above the ground. He was dressed in modern garb. He played a stringed instrument that I couldn’t recognize. It looked ancient.
The transfixing thing, though, was the sky.
It was the deepest black possible that also had a hint of some kind of equally deep blue. And there were stars. There were stars in numbers that I have only seen a few times in my life in places far from any city, town or village.
And the tree was huge.
I’ll build me a castle
Way up to the sky
I’ll find me a rainbow
Find it bye and bye
As I look in her green eyes
At her wondrous black hair
With the red glinting highlights
I can’t even dare
The song continued, but my attention to the lyrics had faded. That was because, after the first four lines, it was not the song that I had written. That fact caused my attention to wander to questions.
Why would I have any expectation that it would have been my song? But since it clearly was my song, why would it have been re-written? And why would it be posted on the internet? How could anyone have known that the song even existed? And who was the guy singing?
I wanted to be sure that I could get back to this video so I clicked on the URL bubble, right clicked, copied and pasted in a word document. I saved the document on my desktop.
The screen faded. Our internet connection had been terminated. A thousand miles from Limerick what else would one expect?
I asked for another Black Label and savored it slowly. I could see something resembling drunkenness just up the aisle.
I took the nap that had recently been aborted.
When I woke up I opened the Word document and clicked on the link.
“The URL you entered could not be found.”
Several more attempts took me to the same error message.
I ordered another scotch and savored my memory of the new lyrics of that unexplainable song. I wondered why I was savoring them. I had no idea what they might mean. They just had the feeling of being right.
I wished that the link would work
Apparently the URL went to a one-time only experience.
I thought that to be rather odd. Maybe it was the altitude.